Monday, 20 July 2015
380. Fresh Hare (1942)
Warner cartoon no. 379.
Release date: August 22, 1942.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny), Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd), Sportsmen Quartet (Dixie singers) - (Thanks Keith Scott).
Story: Michael Maltese.
Animation: Manuel Perez.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Elmer Fudd, playing a mountie, takes the opportunity to hunt down a wanted Bugs Bunny.
From the opening short, it's identified that Bugs Bunny is a wanted criminal, hence the wanted poster. Elmer Fudd sees this as an advantage as his goal set for the entire cartoon is to hunt down Bugs. He comments: "At wast, the wong arm of the war is tweaching out and cwosing in on you. You screwy wabbit!"
The following shot is a real footage-eater, as for almost a solid thirty seconds, you see no animation footage: just sign gags. The camera pans as it follows Bugs' footsteps. The camera stops, pans up a tree featuring a wanted sign poster. This vaguely tells us Bugs had doodled over the wanted poster, to hide his identity: including a Hitler disguise.
A rather sneaky gag is inserted, where Bugs' footsteps stops as he looks at a poster of an attractive woman representing a fictional magazine, Mounted Police Gazette. Then the scene pans to a Hitler-disguised Bugs in the poster. It seems rather unfitting for Oh You Beautiful Doll to be heard in the underscore of the Hitler disguise. Perhaps because it's been hampered by the slow tempo in Carl Stalling's music.
Elmer plants a carrot, where Bugs' hands have an unusual sense. The scene of Bugs feeling the cold from the snow, and using miniature sized tennis racks to retrieve the carrot has a nice charm to it. The pacing seems slower when Elmer cuffs Bugs at the scene: causing Bugs to slowly identify Elmer's features before he takes.
After a brief scuffle, Bugs quickly replaces his arm on the cuff with a bomb. Afraid, Elmer frantically searches for his keys, screaming: "My keys! Where are my keys?" Notice there is an animator switch on the scene, considering that Bugs and Elmer are animated on two separate levels.
Gerry Chiniquy started the sequence up to Elmer's panic over the bomb, but as the camera pans to Bugs Bunny: the scene switches to Dick Bickenbach. It's revealed Bugs has the keys, and in no rush begins to search for the right key. He comments on Elmer's panicking behaviour, "Gee, he's an excitable type", and slowly looks over the different kinds of keys attached to a hook. Bugs' dialogue adds to the fun of the scene, as he carefully looks at each key: "the garage, the car, for the front door, etc". Note his little cheeky whistle when he sees another key, of course: the subtlety of the gag left to the audience's interpretation. As he finds the right key, it's too late: the bomb detonates. The effects animation of the explosion effects reflecting Bugs are very elegant.
As much as I appreciate and respect Michael Maltese, admittedly the scenes of Bugs Bunny disguising himself as a ranger, feels somewhat forced in writing and delivery. Bugs' quick masquerade feels out of nowhere, but not in the kind that works as a gag.
Bugs inspects Elmer, and criticises his appearance. He berates: "Why, look at you! You call yourself a mountie! You're a disgrace to the regiment. I'm gonna drum you out of the soivace!" And so, Bugs proceeds to strip off all of Elmer's uniform, piece by piece.
It gets so where he goes too far and accidentally strips his underwear; which is thankfully censored in a close-up shot of Bugs. Fine direction from the man Freleng. As Elmer went through a fat phase, it appears that a potential running gag for the character floated around. Seen previously in The Wacky Wabbit, Elmer is once again seen wearing a corset. This time, Bugs tugs at Elmer's corset; causing his stomach to compress. Bugs runs off, leaving Elmer to almost leave his clothes as he chases after him.
The camera pans to Bugs pretending to belittle a snowman figure of Elmer. He cackles, "You can't catch me. Why you couldn't even catch a cold. " Elmer slowly creeps up behind Bugs, but at the right moment Bugs socks Elmer from behind.
This leaves Elmer to crash at a wall of ice; with the crash from his rear end forming a love heart. Despite a slow start, Friz's professional timing pays off in the punch scene. The timing and delivery of the gag is so believable it speaks for itself. Other great sequences which pays off with Bugs' personality is him mimicking as Elmer's rifle. Blanc captures the delivery of the gun clicking noises right down to the frame. As Elmer responds, "No more bullets"; Bugs kisses Elmer on the cheek before he leaves.
Then there is the kind of corny gags which are thrown into for laughs. One example being the Christmas tree gag. Bugs is almost completely covered in snow, and his ears separate as he approaches a tree. As Elmer follows, he crashes the tree, causing the snow to drop and revealing an Xmas tree.
Freleng's timing is really revealing during the scene of Bugs and Elmer frantically dashing through a hill of snow, and their figures align together like a paper chain. The sudden appearance of a womanly figure appearing is hysterically subtle, especially for its unpredictability and the nonsense of it. The gag ends when Elmer strikes at a rock...with Bugs painting the figures to trick him.
Bugs willingly lets his hands out for Elmer to arrest him, "No, go ahead, snap 'em on!" Elmer cuffs Bugs at that moment, with Bugs being so willing he marches to the mountie prison, with Elmer struggling to keep at his pace. The march gives Bugs some extra character, particularly his determination to fool Elmer once more.
For a new Bugs Bunny installment to the Warner Bros. library, Fresh Hare has a combination of sluggish pacing, and yet, spiritual and great spontaneity. The first half of the short suffers a bit with padding, particularly for scenes which are given more length than necessary. Not to mention, a little bit of weak delivery on gags and dialogue; as seen in the bomb and ranger-disguised sequence. By the second half of the short, the pace and classic Warner style kick into gear, as Freleng's timing stays sharp. However, the chase sequences feel like it dominates a lot of the short's screen time. Admittedly, some of them do pay off: especially the scene of Bugs dashing into the show, creating a woman figure. Michael Maltese's wit and unique approach to gags only really kick in during the final sequence, whereas the unpredictable, free and easy approach to delivery appears to be lacking in the short. In all, the short is "so-so".